Penthouse settles lawsuit over topless pics

Tuesday, May 21, 2002

NEW YORK -- Penthouse magazine apologized Monday and settled a lawsuit with a woman who sued after topless pictures of her were published and promoted as photos of tennis star Anna Kournikova.

The amount paid to 28-year-old Judith Soltesz-Benetton was not disclosed by Penthouse's owner, General Media Communications Inc. Her lawsuit had sought $10 million in damages.

The settlement was reached just before a ruling from U.S. District Judge Denny Chin.

The judge had threatened to recall the magazine.

and conclude that it was not protected by the First Amendment if it went ahead with the photographs even though it knew they were not of the 20-year-old tennis star.

In a written apology to Soltesz-Benetton, Penthouse publisher Robert Guccione said he and the magazine "express our profound apologies for printing pictures of you in the June 2002 issue of Penthouse."

"We made a terrible, but wholly unintentional error in publishing the pictures of you as Anna Kournikova and are taking steps to ensure that no such errors are made in the future," he wrote.

The case was brought after the magazine claimed that its June issue contained topless photographs of Kournikova. The pictures actually were of Soltesz-Benetton, the daughter-in-law of fashion designer Luciano Benetton.

During a two-day hearing last week, Soltesz-Benetton testified that she believed the photographs were taken about seven years ago, as she sunbathed topless in the South Beach section of Miami

An apology by the magazine two weeks ago was inadequate because it did not identify her and seemed insincere, she said.

Judd Burstein, a lawyer for Soltesz-Benetton, said the case was not about money. "Absolutely not," he said.

Guccione said Penthouse had arranged to destroy about 18,000 copies of the June 2002 issue it possessed and promised to never print the issue again. He said any copies returned by retailers also would be destroyed.

Guccione has said about 1.2 million copies of the issue were printed, and virtually all were distributed.

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